Cycling is an ever increasing sport and mode of transportation, growing in popularity across North America. North Vancouver has always been a hot spot for mountain biking, with local mountains providing great access to cyclists from around the Lower Mainland. With Metro Vancouver becoming more bike friendly every year, increased cycling infrastructure, growth of biking organizations like HUB, and public events such as Bike to Work Week, ridership has steadily grown and people are commuting by bike to school, work, and social events.
With BC’s GranFondo happening in these summer months, we thought it would be a good time to go over stretches and mobility drills for pre-race warmups and post-race cool downs.
Tight calf muscles can contribute to any of the following conditions:
- Achilles tendonitis
- Plantar fasciitis
- Shin splints
- Patellofemoral pain syndromes
- Runner’s knee.
Lunge stretch: standing approximately 2 feet from a wall, place the front foot 3 feet ahead of the back foot. Keeping the back knee straight and ensuring that the front knee does not extend forward beyond the front foot, lunge into the stretch until the back calf begins to tighten. Hold the stretch for 8-10 seconds, switch sides, and repeat each side 5 times. Rotate the toes inward and outward to target different muscle bellies of the calf.
Downward Dog: The downward dog is a great stretch for multiple muscle groups, including the calves. Push the chest forward, pull the shoulder blades backward, and really aim the hips toward the sky to keep pressure off of the wrists. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 3 times. “Walking the dog” (slightly bending one knee at a time) can help to deepen the calf stretch.
Iliotibial (IT) Band
The IT band is a dense concentration of connective tissue that runs along the outside of thigh, from the hip to the knee. The tensor fascia lata (TFL) is the muscular connection between the hip – specifically the outer surface of the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) – and the IT band. When the TFL is tight or overworked due to muscular and/or pelvic imbalances, the IT band can also become tight and sore.
Conditions arising from TFL/ITB tightness include:
- IT band syndrome
- Runner’s knee
- Snapping hip syndrome
- Femoral-acetabular impingement
- Trochanteric bursitis.
Standing Leg Crossover: Stand facing a chair or counter top. Put the left foot behind the right leg and move it out to the right, as far away from the right foot as comfortably possible. Without bending the low back, lower by bending the right knee until a stretch is felt in the left hip. Repeat on the other side. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 2 times.
The hamstrings are a powerful muscle group that is particularly important while cycling. Being a two joint muscle, the hamstring acts as both a hip extender and a knee flexor. The upper portion of the hamstring – the part closer to the sit bones and hips – is used in the powerful down stroke or push phase, while the lower hamstring – the part just above the knee – is used in the up stroke or pull phase of pedalling.
Standing Hamstring Stretch: Proper pelvic positioning and keeping a straight lower back is very important while stretching hamstrings. Place one foot on a chair, ledge, or bench in an easy half lunge position. Keep a slight bend in the knee while increasing hamstring tension by bending at the hips. Think about lowering the sternum (chest bone) and belly button toward the stretching leg, so that they are all in a straight line. Keep the hips square to the ground for optimal stretch. Hold for 10 seconds and perform 3 repetitions on each side.
Hamstring Mobility: Between a doorframe, lay face up on the floor and place one leg against the frame at 90 degree while keeping the other leg flat on the ground, through the doorway. Take an abdominal breath and tighten the core (think of the contraction that would occur when bracing for a punch to the stomach). Raise the grounded leg slowly and methodically to get as close to matching the raised leg at 90 degrees. Perform 10 controlled leg raises on each side.
Chiropractic and Cycling
Seeking treatment from a chiropractor who has specialty training in soft tissue therapies, such as myofascial release, instrument assisted soft tissue manipulation (gua sha), or Active Release Technique can speed up the recovery process and even prevent future injury. As an avid cyclist himself, Dr. Lucas, one of our North Vancouver chiropractors, has a keen interest in helping this population achieve peak performance.
Tune in next week for more tips, exercises, and stretches that will optimize your cycling experience. Until next time, get out side, explore, and enjoy our Beautiful British Columbia this BC Day!